Think you've kissed the Blarney Stone? Then think again...

Well, Sir Winston Churchill kissed the Blarney Stone, and it worked for him, didn't it? He was, after all, one of the world's greatest orators. It shows, doesn't it, that there's substance to the legend that it bestows eloquence?

Except that, if a new book on Cork's Blarney Castle is correct, Sir Winston may have kissed the wrong stone and must therefore owe his rhetorical skills to other factors.

Right castle, wrong stone, is the verdict of an archaeologist and architectural historian, Mark Samuel, who has researched the castle and the stone which has for centuries been said to bestow those whose lips touch it with the power to persuade, flatter, coax and soft-soap.

He believes the stone with the allegedly magical powers was quietly redesignated some time in the 19th century. The reason was health and safety, since the people who then owned the castle wanted to attract more tourists but also wanted to make sure none of them plummeted from the high-placed, dangerous rock to their deaths.

Today, hundreds of thousands are making the trek each year, coming into contact with the stone in complete safety. But, if Mr Samuel is right, they have all been under a giant delusion, puckering up at the wrong rock.

"It was all part of the phenomenon of reinventing the castle that happened in the past 200 years as a romantic spot," according to Mr Samuel. "There are quite good grounds now for saying that there is a Blarney Stone in the castle somewhere, but not the one that people are kissing. That has only been identified as the Blarney Stone since about 1870."

The suspicion is that visitors were redirected at that time to a different stone which was more accessible and less hazardous to reach. Today, a bit of leaning is involved but no danger.

This theory is dismissed by the castle's owner, Charles Colthurst, who – perhaps unsurprisingly – describes it as "a load of Blarney". He added: "I would like to assure the millions of people who have kissed the stone in the past that this is the exact location and has been since as far back as all historical records show. The only stone that was ever kissed in Blarney is the stone they kiss today."

Queen Elizabeth I gave the word its pejorative sense, so they say, when she became exasperated with a local chieftain who came up with ever more ingenious excuses for not fulfilling a pledge to hand the castle over to her.

"Odds bodkins!" she is said to have exclaimed. "Blarney, Blarney, I will hear no more of this Blarney!" This sense of the word is also evident in an 18th-century jibe that kissing the stone imparted "the privilege of telling lies for seven years".

Today, the word is in widespread use, most obviously as the title of Irish pubs: there are Blarney Stone bars from Seattle to Amsterdam, from Scunthorpe to Melbourne and from Finsbury Park to Toledo, Ohio.

The questioning of the stone's authenticity is unlikely to dim its popularity for, in addition to its gift of the gab, it has many more myths to offer. It is Jacob's Pillow, some say, brought to Ireland by Jeremiah. It is associated with a saint, Columba, they say, and with Robert the Bruce – in fact it may even be a part of the Stone of Scone. It has also been connected to the Crusades; and, finally, it may be the stone that Moses struck to bring forth water. It seems highly likely that whoever gathered all these myths must themselves have come into close contact with the Blarney Stone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash